So after all the hype, all the over-the-top Sky Sports blustering, all of the pomp and everything being turned yellow, the transfer deadline day (no, I’m not capitalising it) turned out to be what it is every season: an exercise in how to get overexcited.
I’ve got to tell you, I was glad we weren’t involved, because it’s become sports medias version of a useless holiday to sell greeting cards in between Christmas and the New Year. We’re better off without it but it exists now and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
Still, we were ‘active’ I suppose, giving the vocal Mathieu Debuchy a loan deal at Bordeaux. It’s a sad ‘beginning of the end’ of Debuchy’s career at Arsenal. He arrived as the guy who had displaced Sagna in the French national team and after his first few games he showed consistency, looked like a decent full back, and I for one was glad we had a replacement for Bac who was the right age and experience. But injury has blighted his Arsenal career and as a result a player has emerged who he now cannot displace himself in Bellerin.
It is a sad ending, there’s no two ways about it and those people who have abused him need to probably take a look at themselves, because it doesn’t reflect well. I saw messages from Arsenal fans abusing him to get out of the club when he posted a picture of himself with his infant child. That’s pretty poor. Like you I’m sure, I was disappointed that he felt the need to go public with his discontent at playing second fiddle to Bellerin, but that doesn’t warrant abusing a guy who is just admitting that he wants to play football. I don’t like the fact he’s gone as it weakens us slightly in one position, but that’s not going to whip me up in to a frenzy of online bile volleyed in his direction.
There are those that will say that we didn’t need him, that he’s been terrible all season and that we have other players who can slot in at right back it needed. Perhaps. But I think comments that he’s suddenly become a poor player over the last six months are wide of the mark. Football is as much about confidence and rhythm as it is skill and ability. By only even sporadically playing for the first team and then immediately coming out when Bellerin was fit, he was never going to build any kind of momentum, so it was always going to be difficult.
The move to Bordeaux might be good for all parties, providing that Arsenal have inserted a release clause for the player, given his experience and our lack of options (Chambers is a centre half, if you ask me). Debuchy will get playing time, Bordeaux get a good player, Arsenal can recall him if Bellerin sustains a long-term injury. I just hope there is that release clause inserted.
Let’s hope he stays fit, stays on standby and remains an option should we need it.
All this talk about transfer guff and here’s me not even mentioning the importance of tonight’s game against Southampton. And it is important. We’ve dropped too many points already since Christmas and City won’t drop points against Sunderland, the Spuds won’t against Norwich and with the lack of available players Klopp has, you can bet Leicester will turn over the scousers tonight. So we have to beat Southampton. No ifs, no buts.
The good news is that we’ve been able to rest key players. Özil and Ramsey had the weekend off and Monreal and Bellerin too a back seat against Burnley, along with Campbell, Cech and Big Per, so we have plenty of players who should be nipping about the turf this evening. Which is just as well, because Southampton had the weekend off too and are a hard working and energetic team.
We’ve lost three out of the last four against them, although as Arsène says there were some slight discrepancies in the last game that went against us, so we want to right those wrongs by beating the Saints. They will set up to be difficult to beat and will probably replicate Chelski’s game plan of hitting the channels for someone like Long to run in to. That’s why I’d opt for Gabriel instead of Big Per, but I think Arsène will show faith in the German. I just hope it doesn’t cause us problems like it did in our last Premier League outing. We need to cut their supply line and ensure that we’re doing a better job of cutting off any of those balls in to the channel, so I’m thankful that both Ramsey and Coquelin are back and able to start tonight. In theory it’s a combination that should work. Both players cover a lot of ground and so with Ramsey we should have somebody who can stop Southampton deep in their half, whilst Coquelin can mop up balls in our half.
Southampton have pace in the final third and Mane and Long will test our defenders. Unless Charlie Austin starts, in which case we’ll see Southampton look to hit the target man with runners off him, not unlike Giroud for us.
I’d like to say I’d fancy us tonight, but this game is never comfortable. Like Swansea of a few seasons ago, Southampton seem to know how to play us and as a result, I think if we win this game it will be by just the one goal margin. But hey, I’d take that all day long. Last season we battered Southampton and relied on an Alexis goal after Fraser Forster had the game of his life and whilst I’d love a repeat of the result, the frustration of breaking down a stubborn side was obvious.
Let’s sing up for The Arsenal. We need to get this wagon rolling again.
As an aside, I wanted to say a quick word on the Pep Guardiola news, because it seems everyone is already giving City the title this season and for the next five seasons too. That’s nice for them, but they shouldn’t underestimate the power and pressure of expectation, because that is what’s coming too. There’s no doubt it’s an exciting move for City and the rest of the division have every right to be a little concerned, but let’s not forget that the Premier League is a different beast to La Liga or The Bundesliga. In those divisions there are always two or a maximum of three teams at the top and everyone else is very beatable. This league – especially this season – has shown that it is a relentless monster that will always throw curveballs at you. It will be interesting to see how Guardiola reacts to what will be his biggest ever challenge.